Why is it that when you really want to make something perfectly – for a friend or occasion – it never turns out the way that you want?
Recently, I tried to bake a batch of macarons for a friend. I thought it would be the perfect little surprise for a gluten intolerant friend, instead of altering recipes which obviously need flour to be their best. They are also really pretty and a special sort of gift.
So I set out to make raspberry macarons. And then they cracked! I had made macarons before (see my rosewater macarons previous post), and was pretty confident. What on earth could I have done so differently for them to crack? Unhelpfully, the recipe on the sbs website that I had previously used has been taken away, so I couldn’t compare it to another recipe I was using. I was on my own.
I thought perhaps it was because I was adding raspberry juice which was adding more water than the traditional (but artificial) raspberry essence would use. I tried concentrating the raspberry juice, and this added a great flavour in batch two, but didn’t solve the problem.
So I tried two more batches – one plain one (to make sure it wasn’t the raspberry that was ruining it), and one more raspberry one. The plain ones were okay, but the feet weren’t as gloriously perky as one would like. The raspberry ones were delicious, but not as chewy as desired because some of them started to burn in the oven before the rest were cooked.
I narrowed it down to a couple of things, which I then fixed in a batch the following weekend (by this point I was obsessed):
- Oven temperature – they weren’t cooking enough, but somehow still going brown. The oven temperature must have been too high. The recipe I was using said 150degC, but not whether it was fan-forced or not. I have a fan-forced oven which can end up baking about 20degC hotter than a not fan-forced oven.
- Mixing – many blogs I read said that under or over mixing could be a source of cracking. I watched a couple of videos on youtube, in particular this Adriano Zumbo one helped. He did something none of the other videos did, which is pulse the mixture a couple of times after the addition of the almond meal mix to the meringue mix. I saw it instantly when he did this – I had under-mixed for fear of over-mixing. My mix had still been stiff on the beaters, instead of flowing off.
- Resting – I knew that you have to leave your macarons a little while after piping to get proper feet. However, I was beginning to get impatient, and the recipe I was using specified 20 minutes. The true test is when you lightly press on a macaron, and it doesn’t stick to your finger. This is when it has rested long enough, which can take up to an hour. My best advice would be just to go away and do something else while they sit. Then when you come back, lightly press them and if it seems ok, then fire up your oven, wait until it’s at temperature and they’ll be good.
While also browsing the Adriano Zumbo website, I picked up this macaron stencil, which was a great way to make them all the same size.
I put these lessons to the test this weekend by making some Hawthorn Football Club macarons for the AFL Grand Final. I’ve previously made other Hawthorn cookies, but I thought these simple biscuits would be a fun way to trial the lessons I had learned the hard way the previous weekend. Plus, these plain macarons with chocolate ganache are simple yet delicious. Go Hawks!
Hopefully these lessons will help you in your success in macaron baking. The recipe below is a mixture of the lessons I learned from whiling away my days watching macarons being made, and trying my best to make them. When I have perfected the raspberry ones, I will share that recipe, too. Enjoy!
- 65g icing sugar
- 55g almond meal
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 3 drops yellow food colouring
- 75g milk chocolate
- 30ml thickened cream
- Prepare a flat oven tray with baking paper. Place the macaron stencil (link in blog) under the baking paper, if desired.
- Sift the icing sugar and almond meal into a bowl, and mix together.
- Using an electric hand beater, beat the egg white in another bowl until lightly frothy.
- Add caster sugar to egg white, and beat until stiff peaks. Add the yellow food colouring and beat until very stiff peaks and colouring has been thoroughly mixed in. The egg white should be able to stand up strongly when you pull the beaters out.
- Add half of the almond meal and icing sugar mixture to egg white mix and fold through.
- Add the other half and fold through. It will be very thick and stiff a this point.
- If the mix is very thick, and doesn't fall off your beaters when you put them through, pulse the electric beaters in mix for a second or two, until the mix is still thick, but starts to fall off the beaters.
- Using a piping bag with a 1cm round tip, or just the end cut off a plastic piping bag, with your tip about 1cm above the baking paper, squeeze until the mixture fills in the stencil for each circle.
- This should make about 24 biscuits, or 12 filled biscuits.
- Leave macarons for about 30 mins to 1 hour to get a skin for the feet.
- Meanwhile, place a small saucepan with water in it on the stove with a light simmer. Place a bowl over the saucepan, careful that the water level is below the bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate and cream to the bowl, and melt them together - stirring occasionally.
- When melted, leave your chocolate ganache to cool, before placing in the refrigerator for approx 1 hour or until set (but not too hard).
- When ready, slip the stencil out from underneath your baking paper, place your macarons in a pre-heated oven at 140degC fan forced, 150 degC not fan forced for 15 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, don't forget about them as they cook rapidly towards the end. The difference between 15 and 16 minutes may mean hard, and not chewy macarons. For your oven it might be 14 minutes. They should be firm with a crust on the outside.
- Take them out of the oven and transfer on paper to a cooling rack, or heatproof bench.
- When cooled, pair up macarons for even sizes. Using a piping bag, pipe a generous dob of ganache onto the macaron. If it's too firm from the fridge, leave the ganache out for a little while, or mix to soften the ganache.
- Sandwich the two macaron shells together. Your macaron is made.